Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual news conference on December 18 that Moscow would be “glad” to welcome Georgian leadership in Moscow for talks if Tbilisi finds it possible.
He made the remarks after asked by a Georgian journalist from Tbilisi-based Maestro TV about future Georgia-Russian relations, Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts, and if there was a possibility for holding a meeting between Russian and Georgian leaders.
Putin started answering the question by speaking about conflicts and ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.
“Like in case of south-eastern Ukraine, the question is about the [need] to negotiate with those people, who live there. I was trying to convince Mikheil Nikolayevich Saakashvili, who is currently on the run [wanted by the authorities in Georgia on multiple criminal charges] – by the way, we have nothing to do with it, no one perhaps will fault us because of the current Georgian authorities make him run all around the world like a lousy to banya, we have absolutely nothing to do with it; as far as I know he is not even given a work visa in the United States,” Putin said of Saakashvili.
While the Russian President was holding his lengthy press conference in Moscow, Georgia’s ex-president Saakashvili was attending ratification of Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“I was always trying to convince him, I was telling him: ‘Mikhail Nikolayevich, don’t do it, do not launch military hostilities.’ But he did and the result is known,” Putin continued. “It is now very difficult to find the way out. I understand that it is a pain of the Georgian people, bleeding wound, but everyone knows about 1919, when after disintegration of the Russian Empire, Georgia announced about creation of an independent state and Abkhazia said that it wanted to stay within Russia. The same happened then – the same punitive operations, it’s not forgotten, we have not invented it. But everyone accuses us of all deadly sins as if we are provoking. We are not provoking anything. It happened so. Now, it is necessary to negotiate with these people and we are ready to facilitate.”
“After our warnings were ignored, hostilities were launched and Russia recognized the independence of these republics [Abkhazia, South Ossetia]. We must proceed from realities. Can something be done in these conditions? I will tell you frankly: it’s very difficult,” Putin said.
“Nevertheless, at least relations, direct contacts, political dialogue should be established at the first stage, relations at the first stage, instead of rejecting out of hand. If it becomes possible to do it, we will facilitate to this process in every way. I can’t say now where it will lead to,” the Russian President said.
Asked about possible high-level meeting between Georgia and Russia, Putin responded: “Regrettably, we have very few contacts within Georgia. Actually there are no [contacts] at all.”
“We see that there is no end to internal political struggle there [in Georgia],” Putin added.
“What we were asked for was to liberalize supplies of Georgian products to Russia and we did it. We did it in response to Georgia’s decision not to hinder Russia’s membership to the World Trade Organization despite of our political differences. It was a very good gesture from the Georgian leadership and we reciprocated to this gesture with opening of our market,” Putin said.
“We are ready to move in this direction and if the Georgian government considers it possible, we will be glad to see any representative of the Georgian leadership – the President or the Prime Minister, in Moscow,” the Russian President added.
Georgia agreed not to object to Russia’s WTO membership after Tbilisi and Moscow signed an agreement in November, 2011, envisaging putting in place sophisticated systems for tracking and audit of cargo passing through breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Terms of the agreement, which was signed with mediation of Switzerland, has never been executed. Russia re-opened its market for the Georgian products in 2013.